Drivers, take heed: Gas prices are expected to head up for the warm-weather driving season.
Pushed up by higher crude prices and lower inventory, the U.S. Energy Information Administration expects the retail price of regular-grade gasoline will average $2.74 per gallon this summer, up from an average of $2.41 a gallon last summer.
The EIA blamed the increase on crude oil prices, which are expected to average $12 per barrel higher than last summer.
“The forecast attributes this increase, in large part, to higher Brent crude-oil prices, which are reaching average spot prices not approached since 2014,” Linda Capuano, administrator of the EIA, said in a release.
In Dayton early Thursday, gas prices ranged from $2.69 a gallon at the Sunoco at 912 Wayne Ave. in Dayton to $2.45 at the Big Daddy’s, 1627 E. Third St., also Dayton. They were even lower at some spots.
GasBuddy.com put Dayton’s average per-gallon price Wednesday at $2.47, rising early Thursday to about $2.55.
Nationally, monthly average retail prices of gasoline are forecast to remain largely flat through the summer, averaging $2.78 a gallon from April through June before gradually falling to $2.65 by September, the EIA said in its summer forecast.
The agency noted that regions can see significant differences in pricing, with monthly average prices in some areas exceeding the national average by up to 50 cents a gallon. Unplanned refinery outages or other disruptions can also push prices up.
The EIA forecasts average summer retail prices to range from a high of $3.22 a gallon on the West Coast, to a low of $2.45 on the Gulf Coast.
Several factors are at work. Oil prices are at their highest since December 2014. The Middle Eastern cartel of oil producing nations, OPEC, decided to cut oil production in November 2016, which played a role, said Patrick DeHaan, an analyst with GasBuddy.com.
U.S. inventories today, 15 months later, are 20 percent or over 100 million barrels lower than last year, DeHaan said.
But recent presidential rhetoric on China and Syria do not help, he added.
“On top of that, sprinkle a little Syria, sprinkle a little trade tension — and oil prices are a bit higher than they otherwise would be,” DeHaan said.
What we’re seeing today is combination of higher oil and a backdrop of refinery maintenance and geopolitical tension, he said.
“Though no president can control gas prices, I think some of the rhetoric coming out of the White House is concerning because it’s inflicting unnecessary trauma on the economy,” DeHaan said.
“These types of things do rattle markets,” he added.
Tim Sumpter, a Huber Heights resident who follows gas price trends, said he wasn’t surprised by the outlook, given the volatility across the globe.
For those trying to save money, he suggests using the GasBuddy app to check local prices — and he says drivers should be willing to fill up at different stations.
“Prices can vary as much as 10 cents within a mile or two, so filling up at the right station can make a difference,” Sumpter said.
The EIA forecast is consistent with Gas Buddy’s earlier forecast, which had the peak price occuring in May at about $2.73 a gallon, DeHaan said.
“It’s actually right smack dab on top of ours,” he said of the EIA’s outlook.